(CNN) — Pope Francis met with Argentine President Javier Milley in the Vatican City on Monday for more than an hour.
The meeting took place one day after the canonization of María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, known as Argentina’s first saint, Mother Antura.
Milley has in the past described Pope Francis as a “moron,” a “disgusting leftist” and a “son of a bitch who preaches communism.”
Yet in meetings with the Argentine pope at the Vatican over the past two days, the president has acted less like a provocateur and more like a prodigal. The two men held their first formal meeting on Monday, which the Vatican said lasted 70 minutes, an unusually long hearing by Francis’ standards.
After meeting the pope, the Argentine president met with senior Holy See diplomats, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin. A Vatican statement called the talks “cordial” and said the topics included Argentina’s “new government’s plans to deal with the economic crisis.” Argentina’s year-on-year inflation rate exceeded 211% in December, the highest level in more than three decades, and the poverty rate reached 40%, according to Argentina’s National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC).
The Vatican statement made no mention of a possible papal visit to Argentina, but Francis said he would be willing to return later this year for the first time since his election in 2013.
The pope’s meeting with Millay took place in the Vatican’s Renaissance Apostolic Palace and ended, as is customary, with the two Argentines exchanging gifts. Millais’ gifts to the pope included a commemorative postcard of Argentina’s new saint and Francis’ favorite dulce de leche and lemon cookies. The pope presented the president with a bronze medal inspired by St. Peter’s baldacchino, his writings (including this year’s message of peace) and some rosary beads.
This was President Milley’s first trip abroad since his election. After spending three days in Israel, he traveled to Italy and sat in the front row at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, February 11, to participate in the papal canonization of the first Argentinian. of mass. Saint, Mother Antura.
After Mass, they were seen lovingly embracing each other, with Francisco jokingly asking Milley: “Did you cut your hair?”, referring to the 53-year-old president’s unruly mane. Milei responded: “Can I hug you?”
Yet beneath the smiles and warm embraces, Argentina’s pope and new president maintain deeply opposing worldviews. Milley is a libertarian populist who wielded a chainsaw during his campaign, promising to cut spending and impose “economic shock therapy” on the country. Milley’s plans to cut spending and change labor legislation have sparked an outcry.
On the other hand, the 87-year-old pope has harshly criticized the global capitalist system, lamented the failure of “trickle-down economics” and repeatedly defended workers’ rights.
On the eve of Argentina’s elections, he warned leaders who promised a “messianic” solution to problems that they would behave like “Hamlin’s Pied Piper” and “follow the music and everyone will drown.” The comments were interpreted as criticism of Millay. Days before meeting the president, Francis addressed a group of Argentinian pilgrims, criticizing “radical individualism” as a “virus,” and during the canonization of Mother Antura, he expressed concern about the large number of “we are on the sidewalks” in our cities. “I regret the suffering men and women who were found on the ground.” ! “
Before their face-to-face meeting, Francis and Milley spoke by phone, with the pope congratulating him on his electoral victory and wishing him courage and wisdom.
The president himself has officially invited the pope to visit Argentina.
This weekend, Mire also apologized for his insult to Francisco, calling him “the most important Argentinian in history,” according to Argentina’s national news agency Télam. Milai is also scheduled to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giorgio Meloni on Monday before returning to Argentina.
Information from Christopher Lamb, Claudia Rebaza and Marlon Sorto.